How to Travel on a Budget


Everyone loves a budget travel. But what separates the fly-by-night budget travellers from the ones who have perfected it to an art form is the ability to look beyond just flight and hotel prices. Although monitoring the latter two like how you would the Straits Times Index is de riguere to minimise costs, you might want to observe the following travel hacks.

Pre-flight Research

Price watch

flight search

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Air tickets are one of your biggest travel expenditures, which means there is much room to shave costs. Keep close tabs on the occasional flash sales of unsold seats. But you probably won’t have the time and patience to camp out in front of the laptop 24/7, so sign up for the carrier’s price monitor alerts to get updates on the lowest possible price. To ensure you cover all bases, also subscribe to online travel aggregation portals like Zuji so you don’t foolishly let cheap flight deals and promotions slip by.

Scour the internet for promo codes

There are always promo codes floating around the internet. Make the effort to do some Googling and you are bound to find a few that works.

If you are planning to head to Malaysia for a quick getaway, we got just the one for you! Launched in 2014, CatchThatBus is the leading bus portal that allows travellers to purchase bus tickets with ease across Malaysia and Singapore; providing a superior experience through the perfect mix of technological & operational innovation. Simply purchase your tickets online using the promo code below now!

Book in foreign currency and charge to miles credit cards

Always charge your flight bookings to a miles card. You will be thanking your credit card once you’ve chalked up enough air miles to redeem free flights for your next holiday!

We have all heard about how credit cards offer higher cashback benefits when you charge your overseas spending on them. What you may not know is that this benefit applies when you book and pay for your land content in foreign currencies! So start swiping all your travel expenses on that same card now!

For a round-up of some of the best miles-centric credit cards that reward instant, redeemable air miles, refer to our carefully curated list here.

Free accommodation

Search for a roof over your head at Couchsurfing, a hospitality platform that connects travellers with home owners for a free stay. For those who would lose sleep over safety issues, ask around your Facebook friends. Somebody should know somebody who knows a guy living in the city you are traveling to. The world is smaller than you think.

Note that when you make hotel bookings via third party travel sites, be consistent and stick to one. You can chalk up rewards points through such sites’ rewards program and redeem free stays. For instance, under Expedia’s rewards program, travellerss can earn as much as two points per every $1 spent.

During The Holiday

Dining abroad: Skip the restaurants

If you are one to complain that eating out or drinking in Singapore is madly expensive, then clearly you haven’t seen the worst of it. Many cafés and diners in major European cities require you to drop some serious dollars, and backpackers usually avoid it in favour of bread loaves. In Australia, bottled water costs as much as a cup of latte. Before you know it, your cash balance could be drained by food alone if you allow yourself to be too frivolous.

street food

Photo © Maridav | Shutterstock

One way to go about your meals strategically is to do takeouts from street food vendors (questionable hygiene standards notwithstanding), which may be significantly cheaper than restaurants. Big eaters who have an Airbnb apartment with a kitchen space could head to the nearest supermarket for grocery shopping and have a DIY dinner.

Over to the hotel stayers, see if you can demonstrate enough discretion and stealth at the breakfast buffet. As the hotel restaurants tend to waste tons of food, help them reduce excess by bringing along a plastic tupperware to store your FOC lunch.

Hitchhike, rideshare and bikes

Photo © NaruFoto | Shutterstock

In countries such as New Zealand and United States, some drivers would stop to ferry you to the next nearest town once you put out a thumb by the curb. At the most, you would only have to tip just enough to cover the gas. In urban cities, avoid the possible trap of taxi meters and find out what ridesharing apps the locals are using. There could be ongoing promotions that make it even cheaper than it already is.

Depending on where you are flying to, hopping on two wheels could be a much better alternative. Urban favourites such as Berlin, Paris and Taipei are already ahead of the bike-friendliness curve with their own bike sharing programs, and you can easily rent one to explore the city zero cost.

Always pay in local currency

At the risk of carrying a huge load of cash, you would be saving on conversion fees (usually a few percentage points of the purchase price) and bad exchange rates. Use your debit/credit cards only if you have to.

Travel insurance, travel insurance, travel insurance!

“How is paying more for a piece of PDF policy document considered a budget travel move?” This might come across a paradox, but it really is not all that counterintuitive. Flying into the unknown brings a profound sense of excitement and surely you won’t be all that excited when mysterious baggage losses, unforeseen flight delays, crime and terrorism make you rue the day you didn’t buy travel insurance.

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Nicholas is a wordsmith with an inordinate fondness for caffeine and denim. Follow him on Instagram @nictsecm.

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